Since Ethan Marcotte wrote the seminal article on A List Apart way back in May 2010 (which is like 10 years in internet time), responsive Web design has become one of the biggest buzzwords in the industry; carving out a new path in the future of the Web.
The reason behind the push for responsive Web design is simple: mobile Web traffic is growing every day. Cisco predicts that mobile internet data use (and, by proxy, mobile Web traffic) will show an annual growth rate of 66% through 2017. (CNET)
More recently, Google decided to double down on the mobile web with their AdWords product, announcing on Feb. 6 that they’re “enhancing AdWords for a constantly connected world.” Effectively breaking down the barrier between the desktop and mobile services. (AdWords)
What exactly IS responsive web design?
For the uninitiated, responsive Web design, put simply, is the act of building websites that adapt to the device they’re being viewed on.
Brad Frost wrote “responsive web design is defined as fluid grids, flexible media and media queries. … because the term has grown in popularity, it should come to define all that goes into crafting multi-device web experiences.”
So, why should you care?
The short answer is you should always care about giving your users (customers/potential customers) the best experience possible.
Responsive Web design allows you to tailor your content and layout to the way that customers, or potential customers, want to use your site (a novel concept in and of itself).
Think for a second about how you use websites from your desktop computer versus how you use them from your phone. For example, when you’re browsing a restaurants website from your phone, you’re generally not concerned with how pretty the site is or what all of the dishes look like. You’re usually looking for pretty specific information: location, menu, and phone number.
In addition, reducing the amount of media (images, videos, slideshows, etc.) that needs to load, you can increase the load speed of pages on mobile phones; giving you the ability to serve the information your visitors want, quickly.
If you go to a restaurants site and it takes forever to load (or worse doesn’t load at all because it’s done in flash, which your iPhone doesn’t support), you just go back to Google and go on to the next.
These are important things to think about when planning your site. Mobile traffic is only going to increase. Responsive Web design isn’t just a fad, it’s the future of the Web.